O come, Desire of nations, bind In one the hearts of all mankind; Bid Thou our sad divisions cease, And be Thyself our King of Peace
Portsmouth, NH: The Rev. Linn Opderbecke speaks of a spiritual 'disconnect' in his own community, and we see it happening everywhere. It is a call for spiritual renewal in this Holiday season.
"...We live in relative luxury. The sounds of war, if we hear them at all, are a very distant rumble. Hunger, malnutrition, disease, injustice, drought are all very well hidden from our daily routines. We disperse the darkness by turning on a switch.
When we sing "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" we do not sing these words out of desperation and hopelessness. In fact if we are honest with ourselves, we have to probably admit that usually we don’t want Emmanuel to come at all. We are not anxious to have a fulfillment of all the prophesies just yet.
Instead we look forward to the coming of Santa Claus with his presents and gifts. We look forward to year end bonuses and increases in our income. We look forward to parties and festivities, to big meals with family and friends. Most of us live a very privileged life.
Yet in spite of our relative prosperity; in spite of our peaceful, secure lives; in spite of all that we have; we recognize an emptiness deep within. We are fearful of losing what we have, we covet and desire more. Still we are haunted by a sense that more and newer does not necessarily mean better. Intuitively we know that emptiness deep within us can never be filled with whatever is under our Christmas tree.
I lost my beloved mother just before this year's Holiday rush began. If anyone can fully understand the lesson about the emptiness that bares itself when something - somone irreplaceable is lost, I'm afraid that I am this season's poster-child.
Have you ever wished you could give away every material possession just to have one more moment with a loved one that you cherished? Are you fully appreciating the family and friends who have cared for you?
Can you look, with pride, into the eyes of a homeless man on your city's busy street corner who is holding a sign asking for work - knowing you've done everything you could do to guide him from his poverty?
Do you feel comforted, seeing your own children attending a private school, Ivy-league college, or homeschooling session - saying "Thank God they're safe and well taken care of.." - while you guide your government to take more money and more resources away from the public schools, where many children who do not have the same opportunities are left behind?
Do you care about the future society in which your children will live and work when you are gone from this world? Do you believe things will magically take care of themselves - or do you think you should play an active part?
Have you snagged a new XBox 360? Is it sitting under your Christmas tree while you pass by the Salvation Army bell-ringers without so much as a glance? Have you noticed the poorer neighborhoods in your community, or do you take pains to steer clear of that side of town in your travels?
What will your New Years Resolution be? To lose a few pounds? To be nicer to your mother-in-law? What about the lonely elderly widower who sits in the house two doors down from you? Have you reached out to anyone lately?
Possessions have their proper place in our earthly enjoyment, but do not forget what truly matters when all material possessions are swept away. There's an emptiness not only in our own souls, but in our society today. Our political leaders seem to have emptied all of our commonly-held values out of their agenda, leaving the poorest to fend for themselves and setting a poor moral example for the people of this nation. Rhetorical appeals are made to the lowest common-denominators of fear, blame, and stereotyping in order to promote a political agenda that is not of a positive or moral change, but of a self-interested enrichment.
It will have to be up to the spiritual (interfaith) community to work, as one, to turn things around. When we sing "O Come O Come Emmanuel," let's sing it like we mean it. Sing it with the human desperation that we feel, through empathy and compassion for our fellow brothers and sisters. Acting for social justice may be the only way that hope will be returned to the hopeless. I recently wrote that...
It is only by embracing our own state of brokenness that we are able reach out with compassion in faith and hope to others..
When we placate and sedate our brokenness with material possessions and riches, it's not much different than being attracted to all those prescription drug ads displaying pretty fields of flowers and smiling, satisfied, successful people - or self-medicating with alcohol or drugs. What we bury and forget is lost. The fruit of the love that God intended for us to keep in our hearts never ripens when we forget the lessons of the prophets.
Don't be afraid, in your inner meditation, to go naked. You will not be able to see your brother or sister's human pain, nor will you be capable of compassion, until you consciously admit your own human pain.
I wish you love, and I wish you joy this Holiday season. Most of all, I wish you peace. May you find the true calling of your hearts. In the words of rock singer Jackson Browne:
We guard our world with locks and guns And we guard our fine possessions And once a year when Christmas comes We give to our relations And perhaps we give a little to the poor If the generosity should seize us But if any one of us should interfere In the business of why they are poor They get the same as the rebel Jesus
But please forgive me if I seem To take the tone of judgement For I`ve no wish to come between This day and your enjoyment In this life of hardship and of earthly toil We have need for anything that frees us So I bid you pleasure And I bid you cheer From a heathen and a pagan On the side of the rebel Jesus.